The Argument

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William Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”
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The Argument
Engraved circa 1790

Rintrah roars, and shakes his fires in the burden'd air;
Hungry clouds swag on the deep.

Once meek, and in a perilous path,
The just man kept his course along
The vale of death.
Roses are planted where thorns grow,
And on the barren heath
Sing the honey bees.

Then the perilous path was planted,
And a river and a spring
On every cliff and tomb,
And on the bleachèd bones
Red clay brought forth;

Till the villain left the paths of ease,
To walk in perilous paths, and drive
The just man into barren climes.

Now the sneaking serpent walks
In mild humility,
And the just man rages in the wilds
Where lions roam.

Rintrah roars, and shakes his fires in the burden'd air;
Hungry clouds swag on the deep.

As a new heaven is begun, and it is now thirty-three years since its advent, the
Eternal Hell revives. And lo! Swedenborg is the Angel sitting at the tomb: his
writings are the linen clothes folded up. Now is the dominion of Edom, and the
return of Adam into Paradise. See Isaiah xxxiv and xxxv chap.

Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and
Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence.

From these contraries spring what the religious call Good and Evil. Good is the
passive that obeys Reason. Evil is the active springing from Energy.

Good is Heaven. Evil is Hell.

The Voice of the Devil
All Bibles or sacred codes have been the causes of the following Errors:--

1. That Man has two real existing principles, viz. a Body and a Soul.

2. That Energy, call'd Evil, is alone from the Body; and that Reason, call'd Good,
is alone from the Soul.

3. That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his Energies.

But the following Contraries to these are True:--

1. Man has no Body distinct from his Soul; for that call'd Body is a portion of Soul
discern'd by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age.

2. Energy is the only life, and is from the Body; and Reason is the bound or
outward circumference of Energy.

3. Energy is Eternal Delight.

Those who restrain Desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be
restrained; and the restrainer or Reason Usurps its place and governs the

And being restrained, it by degrees becomes passive, till it is only the shadow of

The history of this is written in Paradise Lost, and the Governor or Reason is
call'd Messiah.

And the original Archangel, or possessor of the command of the Heavenly Host,
is call'd the Devil or Satan, and his children are call'd Sin and Death.

But in the Book of Job, Milton's Messiah is called Satan.

For this history has been adopted by both parties.

It indeed appear'd to Reason as if Desire was cast out; but the

Devil's account is, that the Messiah fell, and formed a Heaven of what he stole
from the Abyss.

This is shown in the Gospel, where he prays to the Father to send the Comforter,
or Desire, that Reason may have Ideas to build on; the Jehovah of the Bible
being no other than he who dwells in flaming fire.

Know that after Christ's death, he became Jehovah.

But in Milton, the Father is Destiny, the Son a Ratio of the five senses, and the
Holy-ghost Vacuum!

Note. The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels and God, and
at liberty when of Devils and Hell, is because he was a true Poet, and of the
Devil's party without knowing it.

A Memorable Fancy - 1
As I was walking among the fires of Hell, delighted with the enjoyments of
Genius, which to Angels look like torment and insanity, I collected some of their
Proverbs; thinking that as the sayings used in a nation mark its character, so the
Proverbs of Hell show the nature of Infernal wisdom better than any description
of buildings or garments.

When I came home, on the abyss of the five senses, where a flatsided steep
frowns over the present world, I saw a mighty Devil, folded in black clouds,
hovering on the sides of the rock; with corroding fires he wrote the following
sentence now perceived by the minds of men, and read by them on earth:--

 How do you know but ev'ry Bird that cuts the airy way,
 Is an immense World of Delight, clos'd by your senses five?

Proverbs of Hell

In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.
Drive your cart and your plough over the bones of the dead.
The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.
Prudence is a rich, ugly old maid courted by Incapacity.
He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence.
The cut worm forgives the plough.
Dip him in the river who loves water.
A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.
He whose face gives no light, shall never become a star.
Eternity is in love with the productions of time.
The busy bee has no time for sorrow.
The hours of folly are measur'd by the clock; but of wisdom, no clock can
All wholesome food is caught without a net or a trap.
Bring out number, weight, and measure in a year of dearth.
No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings.
A dead body revenges not injuries.
The most sublime act is to set another before you.
If the fool would persist in its folly he would become wise.
Folly is the cloak of knavery.
Shame is Pride's cloak.
Prisons are built with stones of law, brothels with bricks of Religion.
The pride of the peacock is the glory of God.
The lust of the goat is the bounty of God.
The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God.
The nakedness of woman is the work of God.
Excess of sorrow laughs. Excess of joy weeps.
The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the stormy sea, and the
destructive sword are portions of eternity too great for the eye of man.
The fox condemns the trap, not himself.
Joys impregnate. Sorrows bring forth.
Let man wear the fell of the lion, woman the fleece of the sheep.
The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship.
The selfish, smiling fool, and the sullen, frowning fool shall be both thought wise,
that they may be a rod.
What is now proved was once only imagin'd.

The rat, the mouse, the fox, the rabbit watch the roots; the lion, the tiger, the
horse, the elephant watch the fruits.
The cistern contains: the fountain overflows.
One thought fills immensity.

Always be ready to speak your mind, and a base man will avoid you.
Everything possible to be believ'd is an image of truth.
The eagle never lost so much time as when he submitted to learn of the crow.
The fox provides for himself; but God provides for the lion.
Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night.
He who has suffer'd you to impose on him, knows you.
As the plough follows words, so God rewards prayers.
The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.
Expect poison from the standing water.
You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.
Listen to the fools reproach! it is a kingly title!
The eyes of fire, the nostrils of air, the mouth of water, the beard of earth.
The weak in courage is strong in cunning.
The apple tree never asks the beech how he shall grow; nor the lion, the horse,
how he shall take his prey.
The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest.
If others had not been foolish, we should be so.
The soul of sweet delight can never be defil'd.
When thou seest an eagle, thou seest a portion of Genius; lift up thy head!
As the caterpillar chooses the fairest leaves to lay her eggs on, so the priest lays
his curse on the fairest joys.
To create a little flower is the labour of ages.
Damn braces. Bless relaxes.
The best wine is the oldest, the best water the newest.
Prayers plough not! Praises reap not!
Joys laugh not! Sorrows weep not!
The head Sublime, the heart Pathos, the genitals Beauty, the hands and feet
As the air to a bird or the sea to a fish, so is contempt to the contemptible.
The crow wish'd everything was black, the owl that everything was white.
Exuberance is Beauty.
If the lion was advised by the fox, he would be cunning.
Improvement makes straight roads; but the crooked roads without improvement
are roads of Genius.

Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires.
Where man's not, nature is barren.
Truth can never be told so as to be understood, and not be believ'd.
Enough! or Too much.

The ancient Poets animated all sensible objects with Gods or Geniuses, calling
them by the names and adorning them with the properties of woods, rivers,
mountains, lakes, cities, nations, and whatever their enlarged and numerous
senses could perceive.

And particularly they studied the Genius of each city and country, placing it under
its Mental Deity;

Till a System was formed, which some took advantage of, and enslav'd the
vulgar by attempting to realise or abstract the Mental Deities from their objects--
thus began Priesthood;

Choosing forms of worship from poetic tables.

And at length they pronounc'd that the Gods had order'd such things. Thus men
forgot that All Deities reside in the Human breast.

A Memorable Fancy - 2
The Prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel dined with me, and I asked them how they
dared so roundly to assert that God spoke to them; and whether they did not
think at the time that they would be misunderstood, and so be the cause of

Isaiah answer'd: `I saw no God, nor heard any, in a finite organical perception;
but my senses discover'd the infinite in everything, and as I was then persuaded,
and remain confirm'd, that the voice of honest indignation is the voice of God, I
cared not for consequences, but wrote.'

Then I asked: `Does a firm persuasion that a thing is so, make it so?'

He replied: `All Poets believe that it does, and in ages of imagination this firm
persuasion removed mountains; but many are not capable of a firm persuasion of

Then Ezekiel said: `The philosophy of the East taught the first principles of
human perception. Some nations held one principle for the origin, and some
another: we of Israel taught that the Poetic Genius (as you now call it) was the
first principle and all the others merely derivative, which was the cause of our
despising the Priests and Philosophers of other countries, and prophesying that
all Gods would at last be proved to originate in ours and to be the tributaries of
the Poetic Genius. It was this that our great poet, King David, desired so fervently
and invokes so pathetically, saying by this he conquers enemies and governs
kingdoms; and we so loved our God, that we cursed in his name all the Deities of
surrounding nations, and asserted that they had rebelled. From these opinions
the vulgar came to think that all nations would at last be subject to the Jews.'

`This,' said he, `like all firm persuasions, is come to pass; for all nations believe
the Jews' code and worship the Jews' god, and what greater subjection can be?'

I heard this with some wonder, and must confess my own conviction. After dinner
I ask'd Isaiah to favour the world with his lost works; he said none of equal value
was lost. Ezekiel said the same of his.

I also asked Isaiah what made him go naked and barefoot three years. He
answer'd: `The same that made our friend Diogenes, the Grecian.'

I then asked Ezekiel why he ate dung, and lay so long on his right and left side.
He answer'd, `The desire of raising other men into a perception of the infinite: this
the North American tribes practise, and is he honest who resists his genius or
conscience only for the sake of present ease or gratification?'

The ancient tradition that the world will be consumed in fire at the end of six
thousand years is true, as I have heard from Hell.

For the cherub with his flaming sword is hereby commanded to leave his guard at
tree of life; and when he does, the whole creation will be consumed and appear
infinite and holy, whereas it now appears finite and corrupt.

This will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment.

But first the notion that man has a body distinct from his soul is to be expunged;
this I shall do by printing in the infernal method, by corrosives, which in Hell are
salutary and medicinal, melting apparent surfaces away, and displaying the
infinite which was hid.

If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is,

For man has closed himself up till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his

A Memorable Fancy - 3
I was in a Printing-house in Hell, and saw the method in which knowledge is
transmitted from generation to generation.

In the first chamber was a Dragon-Man, clearing away the rubbish from a cave's
mouth; within, a number of Dragons were hollowing the cave.

In the second chamber was a Viper folding round the rock and the cave, and
others adorning it with gold, silver, and precious stones.

In the third chamber was an Eagle with wings and feathers of air: he caused the
inside of the cave to be infinite. Around were numbers of Eagle-like men who
built palaces in the immense cliffs.

In the fourth chamber were Lions of flaming fire, raging around and melting the
metals into living fluids.

In the fifth chamber were Unnamed forms, which cast the metals into the

There they were received by Men who occupied the sixth chamber, and took the
forms of books and were arranged in libraries.

The Giants who formed this world into its sensual existence, and now seem to
live in it in chains, are in truth the causes of its life and the sources of all activity;
but the chains are the cunning of weak and tame minds which have power to
resist energy. According to the proverb, the weak in courage is strong in cunning.

Thus one portion of being is the Prolific, the other the Devouring. To the
Devourer it seems as if the producer was in his chains; but it is not so, he only
takes portions of existence and fancies that the whole.

But the Prolific would cease to be Prolific unless the Devourer, as a sea, received
the existence of his delights.

Some will say: `Is not God alone the Prolific?' I answer: `God only Acts and Is, in
existing beings or Men.'

These two classes of men are always upon earth, and they should be enemies:
whoever tries to reconcile them seeks to destroy existence.

Religion is an endeavour to reconcile the two.

Note. Jesus Christ did not wish to unite, but to separate them, as in the Parable
of sheep and goats! And He says: `I came not to send Peace, but a Sword.'

Messiah or Satan or Tempter was formerly thought to be one of the Antediluvians
who are our Energies.

A Memorable Fancy - 4
An Angel came to me and said: `O pitiable, foolish young man! O horrible! O
dreadful state! Consider the hot, burning dungeon thou art preparing for thyself to
all Eternity, to which thou art going in such career.'

I said, `Perhaps you will be willing to show me my eternal lot, and we will
contemplate together upon it, and see whether your lot or mine is most

So he took me thro' a stable, and thro' a church, and down into the church vault,
at the end of which was a mill. Thro' the mill we went, and came to a cave. Down
the winding cavern we groped our tedious way, till a void boundless as a nether
sky appear'd beneath us, and we held by the roots of trees, and hung over this
immensity. But I said: `If you please, we will commit ourselves to this void, and
see whether Providence is here also. If you will not, I will.' But he answer'd: `Do
not presume, O young man, but as we here remain, behold thy lot which will
soon appear when the darkness passes away.'

So I remain'd with him, sitting in the twisted root of an oak. He was suspended in
a fungus, which hung with the head downward into the deep.

By degrees we beheld the infinite Abyss, fiery as the smoke of a burning city;
beneath us, at an immense distance, was the sun, black but shining; but round it
were fiery tracks on which revol'd vast spiders, crawling after their prey, which
flew, or rather swum, in the infinite deep, in the most terrific shapes of animals
sprung from corruption; and the air was full of them, and seem'd composed of
them--these are Devils, and are called Powers of the Air. I now asked my
companion which was my eternal lot? He said: `Between the black and white

But now, from between the black and white spiders, a cloud and fire burst and
rolled thro' the deep, blackening all beneath; so that the nether deep grew black
as a sea, and rolled with a terrible noise. Beneath us was nothing now to be seen
but a black tempest, till looking East between the clouds and the waves we saw a
cataract of blood mixed with fire, and not many stones' throw from us appear'd

and sunk again the scaly fold of a monstrous serpent. At last, to the East, distant
about three degrees, appear'd a fiery crest above the waves. Slowly it reared like
a ridge of golden rocks, till we discover'd two globes of crimson fire, from which
the sea fled away in clouds of smoke; and now we saw it was the head of
Leviathan. His forehead was divided into streaks of green and purple like those
on a tiger's forehead. Soon we saw his mouth and red gills hang just above the
raging foam, tinging the black deep with beams of blood, advancing toward us
with all the fury of a Spiritual Existence.

My friend the Angel climb'd up from his station into the mill: I remain'd alone, and
then this appearance was no more; but I found myself sitting on a pleasant bank
beside a river, by moonlight, hearing a harper, who sung to the harp; and his
theme was: `The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and
breeds reptiles of the mind.'

But I arose and sought for the mill, and there I found my Angel, who, surprised,
asked me how I escaped.

I answer'd: `All that we saw was owing to your metaphysics; for when you ran
away, I found myself on a bank by moonlight hearing a harper. But now we have
seen my eternal lot, shall I show you yours?' He laugh'd at my proposal; but I, by
force, suddenly caught him in my arms, and flew westerly thro' the night, till we
were elevated above the earth's shadow; then I flung myself with him directly into
the body of the sun. Here I clothed myself in white, and taking in my hand
Swedenborg's volumes, sunk from the glorious clime, and passed all the planets
till we came to Saturn. Here I stay'd to rest, and then leap'd into the void between
Saturn and the fixed stars.

`Here,' said I, `is your lot, in this space--if space it may be call'd.' Soon we saw
the stable and the church, and I took him to the altar and open'd the Bible, and lo!
it was a deep pit, into which I descended, driving the Angel before me. Soon we
saw seven houses of brick. One we enter'd; in it were a number of monkeys,
baboons, and all of that species, chain'd by the middle, grinning and snatching at
one another, but withheld by the shortness of their chains. However, I saw that
they sometimes grew numerous, and then the weak were caught by the strong,
and with a grinning aspect, first coupled with, and then devour'd, by plucking off
first one limb and then another, till the body was left a helpless trunk. This, after
grinning and kissing it with seeming fondness, they devour'd too; and here and
there I saw one savourily picking the flesh off of his own tail. As the stench
terribly annoy'd us both, we went into the mill, and I in my hand brought the
skeleton of a body, which in the mill was Aristotle's Analytics.

So the Angel said: `Thy phantasy has imposed upon me, and thou oughest to be

I answer'd: `We impose on one another, and it is but lost time to converse with
you whose works are only Analytics.'

I have always found that Angels have the vanity to speak of themselves as the
Only Wise. This they do with a confident insolence sprouting from systematic

Thus Swedenborg boasts that what he writes is new; tho' it is only the Contents
or Index of already publish'd books.

A man carried a monkey about for a show, and because he was a little wiser than
the monkey, grew vain, and conceiv'd himself as much wiser than seven men. It
is so with Swedenborg: he shows the folly of churches, and exposes hypocrites,
till he imagines that all are religious, and himself the single one on earth that ever
broke a net.

Now hear a plain fact: Swedenborg has not written one new truth. Now hear
another: he has written all the old falsehoods.

And now hear the reason. He conversed with Angels who are all religious, and
conversed not with Devils who all hate religion, for he was incapable thro' his
conceited notions.

Thus Swedenborg's writings are a recapitulation of all superficial opinions, and
an analysis of the more sublime--but no further.

Have now another plain fact. Any man of mechanical talents may, from the
writings of Paracelsus or Jacob Behmen, produce ten thousand volumes of equal
value with Swedenborg's, and from those of Dante or Shakespear an infinite

But when he has done this, let him not say that he knows better than his master,
for he only holds a candle in sunshine.

A Memorable Fancy - 5
Once I saw a Devil in a flame of fire, who arose before an Angel that sat on a
cloud, and the Devil utter'd these words:--

`The worship of God is: Honouring his gifts in other men, each according to his
genius, and loving the greatest men best: those who envy or calumniate great
men hate God; for there is no other God.'

The Angel hearing this became almost blue; but mastering himself he grew
yellow, and at last white, pink, and smiling, and then replied:--

`Thou Idolater! is not God One? and is not he visible in Jesus Christ? and has
not Jesus Christ given his sanction to the law of ten commandments? and are
not all other men fools, sinners, and nothings?'

The Devil answer'd: `Bray a fool in a mortar with wheat, yet shall not his folly be
beaten out of him. If Jesus Christ is the greatest man, you ought to love Him in
the greatest degree. Now hear how He has given His sanction to the law of ten
commandments. Did He not mock at the sabbath, and so mock the sabbath's
God; murder those who were murder'd because of Him; turn away the law from
the woman taken in adultery; steal the labour of others to support Him; bear false
witness when he omitted making a defence before Pilate; covet when he pray'd
for his disciples, and when He bid them shake off the dust of their feet against
such as refused to lodge them? I tell you, no virtue can exist without breaking
these ten commandments. Jesus was all virtue, and acted from impulse, not from

When he had so spoken, I beheld the Angel, who stretched out his arms,
embracing the flame of fire, and he was consumed, and arose as Elijah.

Note.-- This Angel, who is now become a Devil, is my particular friend. We often
read the Bible together in its infernal or diabolical sense, which the world shall
have if they behave well.

I have also the Bible of Hell, which the world shall have whether they will or no.

One Law for the Lion and Ox is Oppression.

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